Often we associate huge vehicles with more fun. A roller coaster can span an acre or more. An A-10 Thunderbolt was designed around its massive, 70-rounds-per-second, 30 mm Gatling cannon. And frankly, we don’t understand why the Hulk is so angry all the time, since being big and strong enough to turn an entire metropolitan area into a multi-level trampoline sounds like a lot of fun to us.
We do the same thing with off-roaders. Whether it’s a Dakar Kamaz cab-over truck tearing through the desert at 100 mph, a one-off King of Hammers machine bouncing over ultra-difficult crawling courses, or the Jeep Mighty FC Concept, bigger really is better.
But an emerging segment of ATV enthusiasts is shaking that notion to its heavy, ponderous core. They drive what are known as side x sides (read: “side-by-sides”), small, lightweight ATVs you can drive like any car. The side x side was designed to offer a safer and more comfortable alternative to the common motorcycle-posture four-wheeler. Since a side x side’s cockpit is surrounded by a complete roll cage, there’s little to no risk of having one give you an uncomfortable introduction to spinal surgery.
Reader Neil wanted to find out just how much he could do with his 2008 Yamaha Rhino, a 421 cc, single cylinder, 40.2 hp trail eater. The Rhino weighs 1,124 lbs, so yes, 40.2 is plenty. Neil originally wanted to keep his Rhino stock, but soon started tackling tougher trails and terrain, and needed the machine to be a little more capable. Project Rhino began.
He started modding and ended up with one of the most capable off-road machines we’ve seen, especially for the money. Neil began with wheels and tires, and now rocks a set of Diablo wheels, complete with beadlocks for his 26” GBC Dirt Commander rubber. Suspension got some help, too, in the form of Progressive Suspension’s 425 HD shocks and a complete leveling kit.
Neil hasn’t neglected the body, either. He’s armored the exterior with an Extreme Metal Products HD rear bumper, Quad Boss fender flares, and a full set of Ricochet Offroad skid protection for the Rhino’s fragile underbelly. The last came after the stock plastic skid plates were shattered and useless.
On the inside, there’s a shiny pair of Sport Seats by Beard (winner of the Manliest Off-road Accessories Name award), which Neil found far more comfortable than the stock plastic seats. And since safety should always come first, there’s a pair of four point harnesses by Crow.
Neil didn’t need to add much power, but he did send his stock sheave off to JBS Performance and found their addition of 12 gram greaseless weights and sliders to significantly improve his low-end performance. And he added a 4000 lb winch, so no trouble would be too much trouble.
Despite its diminutive size, and often because of it, Project Rhino has taken Neil places few well-equipped trucks wouldn’t dare tread. What about you? Would you trade your off-roader for a super-light, relatively cheap sixe x side?
You can view more about Neil’s creations here.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.